Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Opening statements set for Thursday in Bundy trial

Opening statements in the first trial against Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and 16 others accused of taking up arms against federal agents will begin Thursday in Las Vegas. The Bundy trials mark one of the West’s most high-profile land-use cases, which erupted in the 2014 Battle of Bunkerville, when armed ranchers and militia members mounted a six-day standoff in the Nevada community against U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials. Jury selection started Monday for six defendants from Arizona, Idaho and Oklahoma, who say they went to the standoff to protest a BLM roundup of Bundy’s cattle on federal lands and to protect protesters from federal law-enforcement officers. Their trial is one of three that will be held in the case. Federal prosecutors and a judge in the case designated the six as the “least culpable,” but all 17 defendants face identical charges and could spend the rest of their lives in prison if convicted. “This is a crazy case,” said Las Vegas attorney Shawn Perez, who is representing Oklahoma defendant Richard Lovelien. “They are supposed to be less culpable, but all the counts are the same.” Perez said his client did not threaten anyone, draw his weapon or engage law-enforcement officers. “Richard Lovelien’s position is, ‘I don’t even know why I’m here,’ ” Perez said, adding that his client didn’t meet any of the Bundy brothers until after they were arrested and transported to Nevada last year. Defendants say they are victims of government overreach. They argue they were exercising their constitutional rights to protest peacefully and have accused federal agents of ratcheting up tensions and escalating the potential for violence...more

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